Red Sox notebook

Not open-and-shut

Some lefty hitters may get start vs. Wilson in Game 1

By Peter Abraham
Globe Staff / March 30, 2011

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FORT MYERS, Fla. — If the Red Sox were facing hard-throwing lefthander C.J. Wilson on any other day, Terry Francona would give a few of his lefthanded hitters a day off.

But Opening Day is not just another game.

“There’s some thought that needs to go into that,’’ Francona said.

Wilson, who will start for the Rangers Friday in Arlington, Texas, held lefthanded hitters to a .144 batting average last season, with a .224 on-base percentage and a .176 slugging percentage. Carl Crawford is 2 for 16 against Wilson, David Ortiz 1 for 10, and J.D. Drew 1 for 6.

But starting on Opening Day is meaningful for some players.

“I think for a lot of guys it is,’’ Francona said. “I think in some instances maybe it’s not. That’s my job to kind of gauge that.’’

Francona said he had decided on a lineup for the opener and planned to give it some thought in the coming days.

In yesterday’s 1-1 tie with the Rays, the Red Sox used what probably will be a typical lineup. Jacoby Ellsbury led off, followed by Dustin Pedroia, Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez, Kevin Youkilis, Ortiz, Drew, Jason Varitek, and Marco Scutaro.

“We probably have some interchangeable parts, depending on who’s playing, depending on how guys are swinging the bat,’’ Francona said. “We’ve gone back and forth with Youk and Gonzalez. We may do that. They don’t seem to mind. I really don’t think it’s that big a deal. Same thing with Pedey and Crawford. That may be the way it is for a while.’’

On the short side Clay Buchholz went four innings in his final spring training start, allowing one run on one hit with two walks and three strikeouts. Buchholz had a 3.43 ERA over 21 innings in six spring games, but never pitched into the fifth inning. “I didn’t get up and down as far as innings as much as I’d like to,’’ said Buchholz. “Pitch counts got up a little bit quicker than normal.’’ As a result, the Sox might be hesitant to allow him beyond the sixth inning in his first few starts. “You might see him an inning short,’’ said Francona. “I hope it doesn’t cost us anywhere. But it’s an awfully long year. He’s healthy and he looks great. I think he’s been about one inning behind the rest of the guys.’’ Buchholz makes his first start Sunday in Texas . . . Tim Wakefield pitched two solid innings after Buchholz. Dan Wheeler also pitched what Francona said was his best inning of the spring. In all, the Sox allowed only four hits and two walks.

Catcher acquired The Red Sox obtained some needed catching depth, sending righthander Daniel Turpen to the Rockies for 25-year-old Mike McKenry. McKenry hit .265 with 10 home runs and 49 RBIs for Triple A Colorado Springs last season and is a solid defensive catcher with a good arm (he has thrown out 37 percent of base stealers in his minor league career). He gives the Sox a capable backup in the event Jarrod Saltalamacchia or Varitek gets injured. Catcher Mark Wagner was designated for assignment to make room on the 40-man roster. Turpen was 2-1 with a 4.91 ERA for Double A Portland last season . . . With one game remaining, Ortiz has had 57 at-bats this spring, matching Ellsbury for the most on the 25-man roster. Ortiz has hit .263 and feels his swing is in rhythm. After slow starts in 2009 and 2010, the hope is the busy spring will lead to a more productive April. Francona said Ortiz even volunteered to make long road trips just to get extra plate appearances. “I think the more at-bats anybody gets is going to help,’’ said the manager. “Even if they swing the bat bad, it’s good for you.’’

One more time The Sox traveled to Houston after the game and will face the Astros in an exhibition game tonight. Josh Beckett will start, with Dennys Reyes, Bobby Jenks, Daniel Bard, and Jonathan Papelbon to follow . . . Adrian Gonzalez and Eastern Bank will each contribute $500 for every home run he hits this season to select Habitat for Humanity affiliates in eastern Massachusetts. Gonzalez belted his second home run of the spring yesterday . . . Time change: Saturday’s starting time was moved back to 8:15 p.m. to accommodate the Rangers getting their AL championship rings.

His honor Crawford received his Rays 2010 MVP award from the Tampa Bay chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of America before yesterday’s game. Crawford also received the “Good Guy’’ award named for Paul C. Smith . . . Two former Red Sox players, Casey Kotchman and Felipe Lopez, are expected to start the season in Triple A for the Rays . . . The Pawtucket Red Sox will wear a patch on their home jerseys this season in honor of longtime owner Ben Mondor, who died in October . . . The Sox’ spring facility set to open next season will be called JetBlue Park. The airline extended its marketing agreement with the team for eight years.

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